The Crookedest Street in the World, San Francisco

By Rob Pointon

The Crookedest Street in the World, San Francisco

Lombard Street in San Francisco is known to many people as it has featured in many films, photographs and computer games. Until 1922 the street was a straight 27% gradient drop, then town planners introduced eight hairpin bends to slow down the speeding Model T Fords.

Visitors can take the well-known cable car to the top of the hill then meander down on foot amongst the flower beds, watching the cars as they negotiate their way through the bends to the bottom.

I have tried to reflect the steepness of the hill by flipping the canvas into a portrait and condensing a 180 degree sweeping viewpoint, looking both up and down the hill from midway, into the tall format. This is a similar approach to a previous subject I painted in Shrewsbury, a steep winding road into the County town known as Wyle Cop.

This effect gives the painting a cartoony feel to the almost fantasy landscape, full of bright colours in the Californian sun, epitomised by the almost vertical car near the centre of the composition.

This a difficult subject to capture, but many try using photography. Although the obvious vantage point is at the bottom of the hill looking back at all eight bends, I have attempted a different view that locates the viewer in the centre of the action.

The curves in Lombard Street contrast with the strict grid format of the rest of San Francisco, which can be seen here as the road heads up to Telegraph Hill towards Coit Tower. Another landmark appearing in this composition (and slightly enlarged to be noticeable) is the Trans-Atlantic Pyramid Tower.

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